The trunk is finally done!! Or rather, the outline is. I still have a little shading to do.
My goal with this project is not to create a photo-realistic result. Rather, I want to capture what it is in elephants that makes them so grand. It’s more than just their size; they look wise, they look ancient, they appear almost omniscient. And perhaps they are, and we’ll never know. But how do you capture this in a work of art? I am sure 100 artists would create 100 unique ways to do so.
If I were to paint the galaxy, conveying its enormity, would I need to paint every star, or is there a threshold beyond which the eye of an observer can no longer perceive a difference? And is there a threshold at which point the imagination can easily expand from, filling in the gaps? In drawing this elephant, I have played with these questions, and they have defined my style.
The trunk of this work contains ~15,000 (this is a rough guess) tiny shapes. The entire artwork may contain over 100,000. While I have not captured every tiny detail, I hope that I have captured enough to trick the mind into seeing more than is actually there, and to stimulate the imagination to implant an aura into this inanimate form.
What is the purpose of this art?
Elephants are sentient and intellectual beings. They posses an extraordinary degree of emotion and affection. It is sickening to think of how these creatures are treated. Poaching is a grotesque act of pure evil. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that humans and elephants share similar capacities for empathy and love. And so it is, that when a heard of elephants is gunned down by poachers bearing fully automatic weapons, we can only assume that they feel the same pains (physical and emotional) that we would feel in that situation.
The battle against poaching has become a violent engagement. Both poachers and rangers are losing their lives. This could all be avoided if consumers would just stop buying ivory. A product with no demand has no market value.
This artwork is meant to generate further awareness for the plight of the African elephant, but I mean to do so by depicting what we stand to lose. The artwork is very much scientific, produced in a style akin to scientific drawing. Producing the artwork in this style conveys the elephant as the result millions of years of evolution; sculpted by the forces of nature over a great expanse of time. Or, for the religiously inclined, the product of divine creation. But regardless of their origin, their future lies in our hands. In the blink of an eye they could all be gone.
So, when completed, this elephant will stand as an artistic and scientific depiction of what is, or possibly in the years to come, of what once was.
Around the world, there are many extraordinary creatures on the verge of extinction. Whether or not they will be here in the future is left for us to decide. Most importantly, we as consumers of the Earth’s resources have control over what we will and will not buy. This world will always be filled with greedy people willing to make a dime at any cost, but consumers have the power to control what these costs will be.
The learn about the current wave of extinction events, please see The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.